A film producer was waxing nostalgic earlier today about how good the music of the 70s was and wondering why the music of today is so horrendous. I have already shared here in past posts that while I wholeheartedly agree with this notion I also recognize that there is some incredible music and musical innovation happening at the moment. It’s an exciting time creatively for music. But with a few caveats:
— It’s just not mainstream.
— It’s no longer about music in the traditional sense as in playing an instrument; the computer has turned into a musical instrument.
— It’s no longer about songs and songwriting as much as about SOUND i.e. What does it “sound like” forget the song or lack thereof underneath.
— It’s no longer limited to a field of a few savants but rather it’s become a very wide open playing field where every and anyone can throw in with their momentary contribution.
— Having “talent”, i.e. being able to sing or play an instrument or perform live is no longer a necessary requirement.
I was ruminating about the same exact thing yesterday. Here’s the thing: the 90s was so filled with kack (garbage) that it DID jade us to what followed, even though some of it was still very good.
Bare in mind the PEAK of the $$$ revenue generation in the history of the music biz was ’98, when the formula was “release ten diff copies/replicas of whatever happens to be hot at the moment” and avoid originality because it’s “dangerous” (may lose money) — (this started in the 80s w the “first wave of consolidation” (of the labels); the revenue has fallen precipitously since, to where we now have an industry that can no longer sustain itself due to no customer demand for the product (more than just one factor, for sure, but yes one can easily blame part of it on the industry’s “churn and burn” practice of releasing crap over artistry jading and turning off the consumer).
Certainly the trend to entice the audience with manufactured pseudo-music ala “DJs” churning out generic computer generated tones over hypnotic dance beats in lieu of real musicians because it was much more profitable also contributed to the wretched state we are in as well. We addressed this menacing trend in Ed Hale and the Transcendence on our NOTHING IS COHESIVE album with the song “Somebody kill the DJ” — whose lyrics if one listens carefully are literally both a lamenting of the loss of traditional music making AND a rallying cry to kill DJs if one has the chance just to save music. Perhaps it was tongue in cheek hyperbole to a certain degree. Perhaps it wasn’t. But regardless it’s way past that now.
BUT, though it was easy to miss, the 2000s DID actually produce some of the best artists albums and songs of all time still (think Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Phoenix, Strokes, Coldplay, Muse, Jet, Travis, Aqualung, Radiohead, Sigur Ross, etc etc there are hundreds more…). Problem is: “career artistry” is no longer a practice we can afford, i.e. paying for an artist to have a career both with hits and/or no hits. Combine that — the inability to afford career artists financially — w the “anyone can claim to be an artist due to technological advances” trend and we land right where we are today.
Now we are in unchartered waters… all of us, fans and artists alike, adrift in a wicked system where there are no gatekeepers, tastemakers, mentors or arbiters; the trend is “anyone and everyone gets a shot, about 10% of all who try will get 1 hit, 1% may get 2, and 1/10th of 1% may be able to eek a living from it”. But just how one does that is completely different than in times past because all of the traditional revenue streams have dried up. The business still chugs along but broken bankrupt and rudderless because the old rules no longer apply and new rules are constantly forming and re-morphing as Silicon Valley and Wall Street continue to take more and more control over the business side of things. Geniuses they may be — but with no heart and having been bred on coding hacking and the quick creation and abandonment of disposal commodities for profit and fame (websites, apps, software, devices, hardware, etc.) they have reduced music to a perceptually valueless commodity. Now an entire generation — several in fact — have been indoctrinated to fall for that preposterous notion, e.g. music has no value, just like last week’s “app of the week”.
What used to be intangible and transcendent, art heart passion balls love the mind God survival AND entertainment–with $$$ as a side benefit– is now a barely breathing industry that breeds one hit wonders galore through this “replicate what is happening NOW and for Gods sake do NOT innovate for fear of striking out on your ONE chance at bat”, but no “career artists”. Career artists is a term coined in the early 70s that referred to “artists who might not make us very much money NOW but are still very important artistically and therefore might make us money LATER, once the people catch up with them”. We used the money generated from one hit wonders to pay for the careers of career artists. Hence we’d allow Dylan to do a country album or Hendrix to do a 20 minute instrumental jam song or Pink Floyd to record a whole album as one 60 minute song about pigs and dogs or Lennon to release an album of him screaming at the top of his lungs for an hour or Joni to explore jazz fusion etc etc etc. We allowed it because we could afford it AND because it “might” hold artistic merit. Neil Young Lou Reed David Byrne Warren Zevon Led Zeppelin even Van Halen and a million others were born from this ideal…let’s support them a while and see if the public eventually catches up.
The industry can no longer afford this in today’s age because there is no money to be had. And there are a million reasons for this — not just one or two. But making music still costs money as it always has. So WHO is making music now? In this environment? The best and brightest? The really talented? Or “anyone who can afford to”? Sadly the latter. The hardest aspect of the new music business to fathom is that the best and brightest may BE making music somewhere, MAYBE, IF they can even afford to…(big if), but we may never hear it or even hear about it because there’s no money being generated from it, not even enough to launch it out of the artists small local zone.
Very suckass, both for us as artists and for us as music lovers.
Will this change? Can it? Yes. The companies behind the artists simply need to 1, look for the cream NOT the hits, and 2, support those artists through their career in every manner, financially emotionally physically, with mental support and mentoring and lessons etc just as they used to. At least for a few years to see if anything will come out of it. The 70s was the PEAK of that methodology in our industry. Many people consider the 70s to be the BEST decade for music of all time. For a brief period, artists were allowed to record an album that yielded NO hit IF it had artistic merit or the potential to — JUST because it was “art” and that’s what art does. If it yielded a “hit” and made money, even better.
At some point in our future we the people, all of us, will become tired of the current trend of music as a commodity and nothing more and speak up demanding art from our music once again. And through that desire we will create a way to pay for it so that the best and brightest are able to be heard AND make a decent living. It’s only a matter of time.
We are already observing artists and their respective labels devise ingenious ways to generate money through music outside of the traditional means (consumers buying it or paying for it) whether it be U2 giving their album away for free via Apple (Apple paid for it) or Jay Z selling advertising and product placement embedded in his lyrics AND giving it away for free via AT&T or Coldplay having Target pay them or Taylor Swift having Diet Coke pay her etc etc. Of course we can’t all afford giant corporate sponsors and wouldn’t want to if we could. (Personally I could never get away with endorsing something as overtly poisonous as a diet soda — my fans wouldn’t permit me to). But the trend is definitely shifting towards “getting large companies to pay for our music making so the fans don’t have to, or better put don’t want to.” The future possibilities are seemingly endless.
In the meantime we all must realize that even today there really is some incredible music being made out there right this very minute by artists who are busy living and Dying Van Gogh. We just need to look harder for it. And more importantly PAY for it when we do on occasion find it. C
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom
Earlier this year Ed Hale gave an in-depth interview with the website FlyFreeAvatar.com, where he opens up more about his music, business, spiritual and personal life than ever before. The interview also makes mention of the potential release of a new book entitled Bouncing Back When Flat. The interview is being reprinted here for Transcendence Diaries readers in its entirety with permission from the owners. Original interview published on February 1st, 2014 here: Bouncing Back When Flat — An Interview with Recording Artist Ed Hale
FlyFreeAvatar.com recently had the opportunity to get recording artist Ed Hale to sit down for an in-depth interview. This is a project we have spoken about doing for several years, and the New Year seemed like the perfect time to finally complete it. Hale has been in the public eye for most of his life, having released his first album at the age of 17. He is best known as a singer-songwriter and recording artist — as the lead singer of the musical group Ed Hale and the Transcendence, scoring numerous Top 40 hits over the last fifteen years — including classics like “Superhero Girl”, “Scene in San Francisco” and “New Orleans Dreams”. He is also well-known as a successful entrepreneur and businessman, a prolific writer, and an outspoken social and political activist and human rights advocate. He has a reputation for being open and outspoken about his personal life, especially in his popular long-running blog The Transcendence Diaries, which is celebrating its twelfth year online this year. He is refreshingly candid about sharing his spiritual views as well – a rare quality in the entertainment world. Being actively involved in community building and Civilian Diplomacy work with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Hale has traveled the world extensively for diplomatic, peace and work trips and speaks six languages. Most applicable to this site, Hale has taken all of the Avatar Courses numerous times over the last 15 years and continues to do so on a regular basis.
FlyFreeAvatar (FFA): When I first thought about talking to you for this interview, there were two questions that came to mind immediately. The first was about how your music has been affected by taking the Avatar courses. And the second was about all the success you’ve had over the years and how much of a role you think Avatar has played in it.
Ed Hale (EH): Yep. I can see that. Those are the two questions I get asked the most when it comes to Avatar. But that’s TWO questions you know. [laughs]
FFA: Okay so let’s start with your career success. With the band’s last album’s success and the hit singles you had from your solo album, “Scene in San Francisco” and “New Orleans Dreams” climbing the Billboard Top40 Charts, why don’t we start there? With your career success. How much of a role do you think Avatar has played in that?
EH: Well I had achieved success in music at an early age. Long before I took the Avatar Course for the first time. So I don’t want to mislead anyone on that count. But it was short lived. I mean, I was signed, released an album, had a few hits and was touring before I finished high school. And then it was all over before I graduated college! [laughs] But this latest success? I think we could safely say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for everything I learned in Avatar; let alone be in Billboard magazine.
FFA: Your early career, that was when you were known as Eddie Darling…
EH: Yes. That’s the embarrassing truth. But you know, when we’re young… we don’t know. We think we know… but we don’t. At the time I guess I thought that was a cool sounding name. But that was such a crazy experience to go through at such a young age. None of it was on my terms. It was all up to other people. Just a very large greedy money-making machine. If they like what you’re doing, you’re in. If they don’t like what you’re doing, you’re out. No compassion, no sense of artistic integrity or guidance. It was really disheartening for me as a young artist. I thought that was going to be the start of this amazing career, but it didn’t last very long. A few years in the big leagues and it was over and I was back in the local club scene.
FFA: But you obviously didn’t give up on music, which has been a hallmark of your career, this persistence. What led you to keep going?
EH: Well I did give up for a while there. I went back to college and got really into that. But it didn’t last long. I just couldn’t stay away from making music. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable NOT making music. It’s just the one thing in life I enjoy doing more than anything else. Except being married of course! [laughs] The difference was, when I went back into music then, that it was going to be on MY terms. I didn’t feel like I had any control in it my first run-through. So that was one of the many reasons why I took the Avatar Course. I wanted to harness more deliberateness in my life. Not sure if that’s a word… But I really liked the idea of “living deliberately”. [Living Deliberately is the name of the first book by Harry Palmer. Palmer is the author and creator of the Avatar Course and has published many books on the subject.]
FFA: You were young when you took Avatar for the first time.
EH: Yes, I was 21 or 22 years old. Back then that was considered “young”. Now there are kids eight and nine years old taking the courses. It’s incredible. I used to feel like “the kid” around those courses. Now I feel old compared to these kids. [laughs]
FFA: Yes. It’s amazing. But still, 22 is still pretty young to take Avatar. Especially back then when the course was fairly new and unknown. What prompted you to take it?
EH: Well it’s like what I was saying, about the last album, and really all of them over the last ten years… I took Avatar initially because I wanted to feel more in control of my life. I wanted to feel like I was creating my experiences. I could FEEL that what it was about totally vibrated with what I believed personally. I mean, the whole “we create our experiences based on our beliefs” premise… I believed that already. Or at least wanted to. But how do we control our beliefs? That’s what puzzled me and interested me the most. And I learned how to do that on that first Avatar Course; and in the future ones that I took like Masters and Wizards. It gave me the ability to create my beliefs deliberately. So instead of feeling caught up in a large out of control system like the music business, I created feeling in control and confident. And every album since has done better than the last. It’s really been a very positive force in my career. For sure. There’s no arguing about that.
FFA: So do you use the tools regularly?
EH: Yes. Absolutely. I try to live through them… By using them all the time… Like in every moment. After a while, it transcends “using the tools” and just becomes… a way of life, a habit, how you live.
FFA: Have you used the tools specifically about your career? In other words is there a direct correlation between the success you’ve had and using the Avatar tools?
EH: Yes. Absolutely. In terms of using them specifically around my career, I learned from some of the more experienced Avatars out there – and I’m not sure if this is “a thing” or not… But I learned that they might go to a course and dedicate that whole course to just one aspect of their lives, like say their career, or money. Other things come up of course, because it’s all connected, all the different aspects of our lives… but I went to a Pro Course [The Avatar Professional Masters Course] and decided to dedicate the whole course to my career. And it was a truly amazing experience. Doing it that way.
FFA: In what way?
EH: Just the discipline you have to have in order to do that, to stay focused on one thing; controlling your will to be able to do it. And then the variety of tools available to you to explore that one aspect of your life. They offer you so many different perspectives you’ve never thought of before. And the course keeps you on track to really get to the bottom of things. In whatever you’re focusing on. In that case, tackling your beliefs about one specific subject, like your career, from the variety of different angles that are provided to you by using all those different tools. We released the Rise and Shine album a few months later and that album took off bigger and faster than we ever expected. It opened the door for us. Before that, we were a new and relatively unknown band. After that album, we became a national act. The songs were charting in cities all over the country. That was when I first started learning about where all these cities were that we hear about all the time around the country. From the radio station play charts. [laughs] I can’t help believe that part of what helped all that to happen was because I had dedicated that course a few months earlier to focusing just on my career. It was so effortless.
FFA: Have you done that with other areas of your life? Is it something you always do?
EH: No it is not something I always do. But I have done it with other things. But not usually. I did it regarding relationships one year and that was also very successful. I found my soul-mate because of doing that I believe. I cleaned up all the beliefs I had about love and romance and relationships… But usually I just take the courses and allow whatever comes up to come up. And you know, what I notice is that if your attention is on your career, then that’s what’s going to come up for you anyway. So it’s not really necessary. It all tends to work out perfectly if you don’t fight it and you just let it flow. Ultimately it’s your consciousness, no one else’s. You just have to decide if you want to be a victim of it or the master and leader of it.
FFA: That’s well put. So how do the courses affect your music? As an artist?
EH: Well I get that question a lot. And the answer is I honestly don’t know. I know that the answer is supposed to be really incredible and mystical or magical in some way… There’s this expectation there it seems… But honestly, in terms of music, I’ve been writing and playing music since I was a kid, since before I could walk. So if I were to be totally honest, I don’t know what affect it’s had. Freedom maybe?
FFA: That’s fair. Freedom in what way?
EH: Well… I can tell you this. When I first took the Avatar Course and then the Masters Courses, I felt OUT OF THIS WORLD. I had never felt so good in my life. Just like… I don’t know, flying is how I would put it. High as a kite, but without drugs. High on life. [Hale is very animated as he speaks. His eyes are wide and he uses a lot of hand gestures.] I felt SO confident and SO fresh and new and GOOD inside. I KNOW that came through in the music I was writing back then. It gave me a feeling of invincibility and that definitely translated to me having a new-found confidence as a musician and as a writer… to write whatever I wanted to and forget about any of the so-called “rules of the business”. You know? So in that sense, the courses did affect my music tremendously.
FFA: Some of your songs are very spiritual. You tend to write more specifically about spiritual matters than other mainstream rock or pop singers…
EH: So now I’m mainstream? That’s a first!
FFA: You know what I mean, singers in the public eye… most of them don’t write about spirituality as much as you do. Even the ideas of Avatar and Abraham Hicks are referenced. I also couldn’t help notice that you credit Harry Palmer on some of the songs.
EH: Well yeah, [laughs] you get so excited after you first learn all that knowledge. It’s a big WOW moment. Like discovering chocolate or sex for the first time or something. [laughs] But bigger. Just the knowledge is mind-blowing, right? So it’s a given that you’re going to want to share that with people. Just not go overboard with it… hopefully. But if you use the tools on a regular basis, if you practice BEING an Avatar… then you feel like you’re walking on clouds most of the time. Those ideals and principles are embedded in you. Simple things. But profound. So they tend to come out in the lyrics. If I write a lyric that sounds really close to something I’ve read then yeah I’ll give credit to wherever I think credit is due. When I was younger I was writing a lot of songs about spirituality and transcendence and stuff like that and it really did feel like I was channeling the ideas of Avatar through music at times. So I would credit whoever was the inspiration. That doesn’t make our publisher very happy [laughs] because it creates a lot more paper work. But it’s the right thing to do. Harry Palmer’s ideas have been a huge influence on me and how I think… ever since I was a kid.
FFA: Does he know that he’s written songs with you?
EH: I don’t know. [laughs] That’s a weird way to put it. But I’ve never kept it a secret. We’ve never talked about it. I always wonder if he gets these checks in the mail and then wonders where they’re coming from. [laughs]
FFA: You’ve also had tremendous success in business, as an entrepreneur.
EH: I’ve tried. [laughs]
FFA: Well you have. That’s an aspect of your career that isn’t talked about as much. You were a successful entrepreneur before you were 30, irrespective of your career in music. And that seems to be a running thread throughout your life, starting businesses and being in business, since you were very young. [Hale started his first company at the age of 20 when he opened up a rehearsal and recording studio. Since then he’s owned health food stores, juice bars, a vitamin manufacturing company, a business consulting company, a record label and a real estate investment company.]
EH: Yeah, for sure. That’s another one of those things that I just absolutely LOVE. Business. Being in business. LOVE it.
FFA: You say that about a lot of things!
EH: Maybe I do… [laughs] I don’t know. I guess I just love a lot of stuff. Hey that’s the Ambassador!
FFA: So what is it about business that you love?
EH: Well I was raised in that kind of an environment, number one. I grew up with my parents owning businesses. So I think that was instrumental in it. And I have just always enjoyed being in business for myself more than working for other people. Though I don’t necessarily believe that it’s easier. I actually think working for other people – especially for a large company – is the easier path to take, for sure. But for someone like me… I just could never imagine doing that full time and long term. Plus, there’s also a real rush you get out of the risky and adventurous aspect of being in business for yourself. Unlimited reward but unlimited risk as well. I get off on that.
FFA: But how do you keep up with it? And how does Avatar affect it?
EH: You know that’s two questions, right? [laughs] I’ve always been fascinated by being in business for yourself. Since I was a kid I always admired those kind of people. Tony Robbins has been as big an influence on me as say, someone like John Lennon. Almost equal. And I also found that I was good at it, or at least lucky in it. So I keep up with it as best as I can. Probably not as well as I could honestly. The Avatar thing, that’s a different story. It helps obviously. I know that. That’s the thing… Avatar helps you with everything. It’s not just one aspect of your life. It’s your whole life that is affected.
FFA: You’ve talked about Harry Palmer and Tony Robbins a lot throughout your career in interviews. They seem to come up quite a bit.
EH: [laughs] Yeah I guess I do. But hey if you’re going to have mentors, they might as well be great ones. And for my money those are two of the brightest minds in the world today when it comes to personal achievement. Even though they’re very different. Stephen Bauman too. He’s more of a spiritual intellectual who keeps your integrity on its toes. But really all of them do that. [Stephen Bauman is an author, speaker and Methodist Pastor in New York City]
FFA: I know your love for Tony Robbins and Stephen Bauman. But in relation to this website and its readers, how does Avatar help with your success in business?
EH: Well to me I think the answer to that question is obvious, but for someone who’s never taken any of the Avatar Courses before…. okay, we can go there… Say you’re experiencing the same challenge over and over again in your business. Everything seems to be going well except this one thing… Or perhaps LOTS of things… You can keep banging your head against the wall over it… Hire new people, recruit consultants, read more books, take more classes, etc. etc. OR you can take a look at the beliefs underneath this problem and once you discover them, you can then DIScreate them. That’s a term that Harry Palmer came up with in the Avatar Course. It’s brilliant. And voila! They’re gone. That challenge will no longer be there. THAT’S how it can help. It’s miraculous. If people have ever seen that movie The Secret… it’s like that. But it’s real.
FFA: You make it sound so easy.
EH: Well in a way, it is. Not all the time. But it isn’t rocket science. It’s a very natural thing. It’s an organic process, just like breathing oxygen. We just have to re-remember it… Discreating limiting beliefs helps us remove obstacles in our life that up to that point seem insurmountable to us. I can honestly say I would not have experienced the level of business success I have had in my life, especially as young as I was, without having that knowledge and those tools. To me it’s a no-brainer. The same with religious faith. Both help.
FFA: Speaking of obstacles, you’ve had your share and always seem to bounce back, which has been an inspiration to many people. What’s the secret? Or does that give away the plot to your new book? [Hale has a new business/inspirational book coming out this year entitled Bouncing Back When Flat]
EH: Besides what I just said? [laughs] I mean that kind of sums it up, right?
FAA: I was hoping we could go a little deeper.
EH: Okay well which ones? There’ve been a lot of them. [laughs] It hasn’t been as easy as people seem to think it has. It never is. Not for any of us.
FFA: A few years ago you experienced a major business setback that left you broke and even homeless for a while, which is what your new book is about. I’ve read some of the interviews about that experience and it’s shocking. But you turned it around. What I’m trying to come to is how you did it? [In 2006 Hale discovered that his business partner, Naomi Whittel (nee Balcombe) (now at Reserveage Organics), had sold one of the companies he had founded, Ageless Foundation Laboratories, without his knowledge to a publicly traded company. Hale found out through the SEC filing. Naturade Inc., the company who purchased Hale’s company, didn’t even know Hale was an owner of the company when they made the purchase, finding out months later. The story has been written about extensively, but Hale has been relatively quiet about it.]
EH: Yeah, that… [This is the first time in the interview Hale becomes quiet, anything but animated.] That’s still a tough thing for me to talk about. But I understand that it’s important and why you think it’s relevant. I’m still coming to terms with it all.
FFA: Well that’s why you wrote this book, right?
EH: Yes. Absolutely. It’s an important story. I know that.
FFA: Not many people can imagine living through that kind of a setback, let alone bouncing back from it. But you did. Rather quickly some would say. And you have had tremendous success since then.
EH: Yes, I know. And I’m very grateful for that. Hence the book. If I can do that, then anyone can do anything. That’s how I look at it.
FFA: I read an interview you gave last year where you did talk about it and it was inspiring. I only ask because the story does have a happy ending. You didn’t let it take you down, but instead you found a way to work your way back to the top. That’s an incredible achievement.
EH: Yes, it did take me down. I mean, how could it not have? One day I was going about my business and living my life, not a worry in the world, and then in one fell swoop everything I had in the world was gone. Bank accounts, credit cards, my company, retirement savings. Everything. Gone. It was the single most challenging thing I’ve ever lived through. For sure. But you’re right, I didn’t let it keep me down forever. I started from scratch and rebuilt. And slowly I was able to rise back up.
FFA: Without giving too much of the book away, how were you able to do that?
EH: Well for one thing, my faith is very strong. We’ve talked about that. I’ve never hidden that. I try not to be preachy, but I also think it’s bullshit, pardon my French, when entertainers keep their faith in the closet because they’re worried about how it’s going to affect their career.
FFA: You’ve certainly never done that.
EH: No, I haven’t. I talk about it when it’s appropriate. It’s important to me and I believe it’s important to a lot of my friends and fans.
FFA: You write a lot about religion and faith in your blog and sometimes sound almost anti-religious, almost like an atheist, which I know you’re not. And yet at the same time you write a lot about being a Christian and how challenging it is. Can you explain that a little?
EH: Well I’m definitely not one of those “100% sold” kind of people. I think anyone who’s really honest about their religious faith is going to be confused about it… and struggle occasionally. Because there are just so many contradictions in religion and spirituality… The difference with me I guess is that I haven’t necessarily chosen a side yet… I’m still open to all of them…. dissecting it all. And I explore all that a lot publicly in the Diaries. [Hale is referring to his long-running blog The Transcendence Diaries].
FFA: I know a lot of people find that inspiring. But you also anger certain groups of people with this “openness”.
EH: I know. And I don’t mean to. What I’m really doing is what I believe we should all be doing if we’re serious about spirituality and faith… questioning, studying, exploring. I’m not trying to make anybody mad or even question what they believe. To me it’s fun. It’s academic. But it also meaning beyond that.
FFA: I think most people recognize that. So your faith is one of the things that brought you through that business challenge?
EH: Without a doubt. A lot of reflection and prayer. And a lot of counseling with mentors. Seeking advice from older people that I looked up to. Also I had a really strong community around me. Family and friends who were there for me. That’s a tremendous asset. Something that you can’t buy. If it weren’t for that, I don’t know if I’d be here today. Because when that kind of thing happens to you, you really start questioning your life. All your effort and hard work and even your beliefs, things that you’ve taken for granted your whole life all of a sudden… you start questioning.
FFA: Like what?
EH: Well like… just everything. For example, you assume that if you work hard and you’re a good person that you’re going to succeed. That’s what I’d ALWAYS believed. My whole life. And I experienced that. Over and over again throughout my life that’s what I experienced. And then when this happened, it was so shocking, that it was hard to put those pieces back together, of that belief. It didn’t ring true to me anymore. Being a good person did NOT equal being successful. I started wondering if maybe that was just bs and perhaps we were supposed to be bad people and that was how to succeed. That was my first gut reaction of course. It took me some time to overcome that idea…. because bad people seem to succeed just as much as good people.
FFA: It’s easy to see how you could come to that.
EH: Right? But here’s the thing. I was wrong. We’re not “good” people because we want to succeed. We’re good people because we believe that’s the best way to live life. You know? My friends and family would call me every day, I mean every day, just to see how I was doing and check in on me. That was a big help. And we would talk about it and little by little they got through to me. I remember this one time I was driving around Manhattan with a friend, Big Mac, I LOVE this guy. He’s super funny, a southern guy. And he had just finished seminary at Princeton… So he is a spiritual guy too…
FFA: You write about him in your Diaries. I know the name.
EH: Yep. I write about EVERYBODY in the Diaries. Much to their displeasure! [laughs]
FFA: I definitely want to talk about that later, because I have a lot of questions about your blog and the reaction you’ve gotten through the years, but I don’t want to interrupt your train of thought. So go on with the story.
EH: Okay… So I was telling Big Mac how I was trying to make sense of God’s plan for my life with making this horrible thing happen to me. With Naomi and the business. That perhaps God was trying to show me a different path to take, rather than all this success and being a business tycoon that maybe God wanted me to be more focused on making the world a better place. And Big Mac, he just looked over at me and said “Bro I could never believe in a God like that.” I’ll never forget it. That was just one of those moments in life you never forget. I was like “What do you mean?” And he said “Ed, God doesn’t make bad things happen to people. God is grace. And love. Who did this to you? This Naomi chick did this to you.” The way he enunciated her name in his southern drawl… I can still remember it… He said “People did this to you man. God didn’t. God is the one helping you. Not hurting you.” I turned around in my seat and I began to cry. Right there in his truck. Because that was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I had been so puzzled by it. I couldn’t figure out WHY it happened… I was still trying to make sense of it. But he made me realize in that moment that it didn’t have anything to do with God or God’s plan… it was people. If anything, God is there to help us, not hurt us. At least in his view.
FFA: And is that your viewpoint now?
EH: Yes. Absolutely. That really resonated with me. When he said it. And looking back, still, it totally changed my whole point of view. That’s what I mean by my beliefs were being challenged. I was actually so fooled for a while there that I thought maybe that “God” wanted me to suffer in that way… It’s crazy. But luckily, if anything it made me stronger. And more importantly it offered me a reference point for how to view life when bad things happen to us. That it’s not about blaming God, every time something good or bad happens to us. People were the cause of it. And more importantly so was I.
FFA: How so? How were you the cause of it?
EH: Well that’s the part where I think I got the most out of the experience. Where if there is anything positive to take away from it, I got it. The first thing I did, because I had taken Avatar, was I started looking at my own past actions to see what was there, what had I done, in my life… I started reflecting on my own responsibility in the whole thing, instead of blaming anyone – and trust me it was easy to blame people… it was a horrible thing they did, they broke the law in a hundred different ways, and worse… broke my heart by taking advantage of our friendship… I HATE stuff like that… people like that. But I knew I needed to look for where and how I was responsible… So on the one hand, I saw how we have to be real when it comes to people doing harmful things to us; it happens. We can’t live in a bubble and pretend that there aren’t bad people out there. Because there are. But I also saw that I had some responsibility in it too.
FFA: That’s admirable, but in what ways were you responsible?
EH: Well I can’t act like I did anything overtly wrong to cause it… Sometimes people can make the mistake of over-owning things I think. It’s not like I was acting unethically or broke the law or something… I was a good guy. Same as I am now. But I had been warned that that kind of thing might happen before it did… at least a hundred times before to be honest. It wasn’t like it came out of the blue. I had been in business with Naomi for years. And that was the main thing we argued about, was her always wanting to break the law and me always saying that we most certainly should NOT. And our employees would always be stuck in the middle, between our two viewpoints. She constantly accused me of being “self-righteous” and I just wanted us to play it straight. So I had definitely been warned already. But what had I done about it? Nothing. Sure we had stacks of legal agreements between us that prohibited us from doing those kinds of things… But based on what I’d already experienced with her in the past, I should have known better. I should have taken more action BEFORE all that happened. And I didn’t. Why? Because I was being lazy, yes… or because I was resisting conflict. For sure. I didn’t like conflict of any kind. I love people and I love harmony and I’m all about love and peace, you know? So I just pretended like everything was fine when I knew it really wasn’t. I could feel it…
FFA: You were in denial… of your intuition?
EH: Yes, absolutely. Living in denial. Pretending. I helped to create the whole thing through knowing about the potential for something like that to happen and NOT doing anything about it. NOT acting when you know you should can be just as bad as TAKING an action that’s harmful.
FFA: So you took responsibility for the experience? Did that make it easier to deal with?
EH: Yes, absolutely. It gave me a sense of relief. It enabled me to feel the remorse for my non-actions that might have contributed to it, and other things, and then to move on. What it does is help you feel responsible for it rather than like a victim of it.
FFA: That’s a great example of using what you learn in Avatar in the real world.
EH: Yes. Totally. I think so. That one experience compelled me to fill three whole notebooks with actions from my past that I felt weren’t necessarily aligned with being a good person and to make amends for them. In order to get a fresh start. It led to a lot of self-reflection and taking responsibility for my past. I became a better person through doing all that.
FFA: When you’ve written about the experience that’s what you mean by it also being a positive experience…
EH: Yes. Let’s face it. No one wants to go through something like that. To have everything you own taken from you by other people. That’s a bad thing. The betrayal aspect of it alone is enough to make you feel so discouraged and ungrounded… so unsure of yourself and the world. When someone lies to you so overtly and is doing it from a place of friendship, it can really screw with your mind. But you have to find a way to turn it around and see the positive side of it. And for me the best way to do that was to start looking at me instead of at the others. And to start planning how I could improve who I was as a person… Once again I saw firsthand how our actions in the world can affect others, either in a positive or in a negative way. That’s the least we can do. Take stock of our actions and make sure we are having a positive impact. So that’s what I did.
FFA: That is inspiring. And within a few years you had overcome it and were back on top again with three hit albums, songs on the Billboard charts, and your now infamous trip to Iran… Do you think there’s any correlation between what you went through and the success you’ve had?
EH: No. I don’t. Maybe, I don’t know. I know it inspired me. But only through necessity. Before that happened I was really enjoying life. Taking advantage of how hard I had worked and how successful I had become. After that, I was forced to go back to square one and start over again and rebuild my entire life and career from scratch. It really inspired me to become successful again. I was determined to. So in that respect yes there was a correlation. But I’ll tell you this: no one should ever believe for a minute that they need to endure some kind of tragedy or suffering in order to succeed. That would be a very impeding and unnecessary belief to cultivate.
FFA: That’s a good point to make.
EH: Well if you go and read a lot of the articles that were written when our first album after that experience came out and became successful there is a lot of attention paid to the whole rags to riches aspect of it, “from homeless to Billboard!” became a headline. As if there was a romantic aspect to it. And I can promise you that there is nothing romantic about going through something like that. If you can avoid it, do so.
FFA: Well the story is an appealing and inspiring one, from an entertainment or person of interest point of view. You can see that…
EH: Yeah, I can. Totally. Which is one of the reasons why I wrote a book about it. I mean, I get it. How often does something like that happen to a person? Not very often. It’s more like a movie than real life.
FFA: There is another aspect about that experience that I wanted to have you talk about if you don’t mind, because I think it’s important. Ultimately you decided to settle the whole thing with your partner out of court. Yet the case still remains unresolved years later. Why did you decide to do that? And do you regret it now? [Naomi Whittel signed a settlement agreement to pay Hale for the sale of the company in order to render it a legal transaction months after the sale and prevent the case from going to court, but the agreement has never been fulfilled.]
EH: Well that’s more than just one question….
FFA: Okay. Why did you agree to settle out of court? Why didn’t you just go about it in a more traditional business manner?
EH: You mean by taking legal action?
FFA: Yes. Laws were clearly broken. Contracts were breached. It seems like an open and shut case.
EH: Right, I know. And it was. I get this question a lot, especially from other business people. There was a ton of criminal activity revealed. Fraud, forgery, tax fraud, embezzlement, a lot of lying and stealing… You know. Crazy stuff. It was something right out of a movie. Totally unreal and way outside anything I’d ever dealt with before. It’s insane when you think about it. This was a situation where yes, I probably could have played tougher… But for one thing, there’s a good chance that Naomi would have gone to jail if I would have gone public with it by taking it to court. And I was still operating under the misconception that Naomi and I were friends. We had been engaged to be married after all for years. So I still cared about her as a person. Secondly, she literally called me every day for years from the moment I found out what she had done…. Begging me to settle. Even though it may seem in retrospect like such an open and shut case now, at the time, I was still receiving these calls from her every day begging me to settle and not go to court. I felt very pulled. Between my loyalty to her as a person, and to her family… And to doing the right thing perhaps…
FFA: So now you think that taking it to court would have been the right thing?
EH: Well it would have been the more normal action to take under those circumstances…. But also I felt that there had already been enough legal action in our lives. I mean, she had created such a huge mess of legal actions for us already. It was all lawyers and law firms galore… for years. No one was winning except the law firms as they say. But because I had made peace within myself about it, and she was pushing hard for an out of court settlement, I looked at both outcomes… Part of me really wanted to “get justice”. Because in business that’s what you do. If someone commits a criminal act, they deserve to get what they get, right? Justice, to the full extent of the law. I got that. But at what cost to me and my own sanity? And at what cost to my family and friends? They’d already been through the ringer because of what happened. I reflected on it and prayed about it a lot… And it just seemed like settling it was the right thing to do. To put it behind us as quickly and smoothly as possible.
FFA: Plus you assumed that once you settled that it would really be over and behind you as you say.
EH: Yes, I did. Totally. I thought that would be the end of it. The end of “the Naomi saga” once and for all. It happened. It was bad. But the ball was in my court. I could sue and drag it out in court for years, or I could forgive and settle and move on with my life.
FFA: But it didn’t end there. After all that, the settlement agreement remains unfulfilled. Which is what led to the major setback you experienced. So do you regret that decision now?
EH: Yes and no. Yes, because I wish it were over. I regret what I had to go through. And I am sublimely shocked that we’re still talking about it years later. I don’t honestly know how she can deal with it still being out there open and unresolved. But no, because in that moment I feel like I made the most responsible and mature decision that could have been made at that time. Trust me, forgiveness in those kinds of situations is difficult… but it’s the HIGH road. Being vindictive or seeking vengeance, that may be the more common road, but it’s not the high road.
FFA: Yes, as an Avatar I completely understand you choosing forgiveness over revenge. Even though in the end it was a costly decision…
EH: Yes, it was. So far at least. But I’m still giving her the benefit of the doubt. That’s the part that a lot of people don’t understand. At first she swore up and down that she had nothing to do with it, that she was “forced into it by her husband and this pack of evil attorneys” they had hired. I didn’t necessarily believe her… But you know, when you’re close to someone like that… It’s hard to cut the line completely that connects you. There is still love there. And compassion. You want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
FFA: But it sounds like a very one-sided kind of compassion.
EH: Maybe it is… That’s something I wonder about sometimes. Long story short, she swore up and down that she had every intention of fulfilling the agreement, and more than anything she was just afraid. At the time I felt like I was doing the right thing, by being compassionate and forgiving, because that’s what WE do, right? And protecting her…
FFA: Yes, I agree. That’s what we do. But this brings up the question of when is it better to look out for yourself by taking a more Guardian Heart approach? [Guardian Heart is a concept explored in the book Resurfacing by Harry Palmer.]
EH: I know… There’s a fine line between being a nice person or a good person and letting someone take advantage of you… They are two different things. And sometimes we confuse them. Maybe I’ve crossed that line now… I hope not. But I can tell you now, after going through all of that, I understand the importance of the Guardian Heart a lot more now, of not confusing being a nice person with being someone who allows others to take advantage of them. That IS something that we tend to get confused sometimes as humans. I also see the importance of standing up for what we believe in or just being committed to protecting ourselves and our loved ones. I know what you’re getting at. And I am in no way attempting to promote forgiveness as being equal to letting people take advantage of us.
FFA: There is a certain responsibility we have to ourselves and to others in defending integrity and justice for the good of everyone…
EH: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the reasons why I decided to write the book about what happened. It’s not just about the inspiration factor. But more about the responsibility to others. Not just to inspire other people who might be going through a similar challenge, but also to warn people that this kind of thing can happen to the best of us. No matter how nice we are or how good of people we are. No one is immune to it. You have to look out for yourself, no matter how nice of a person you are. But it is how we deal with it that is the true measure of a person.
I remember Tony Robbins telling a story once about how he went through a similar experience in his business life. His CFO was also his best friend and he discovered that this guy had been embezzling a ton of money from their company and it just shattered him; challenged his optimistic outlook for a while. When he told that story, I couldn’t relate to it at all. I was too young. I had never gone through anything like that. But when almost the same exact thing happened to ME… THEN I could relate to it. And knowing ahead of time that he lived through it really helped me. His story and his struggle with that inspired me. And I’m sure there are a lot of people who would be surprised that something like this even happened to me, because I’ve never really talked about it openly before. But I get it now. That responsibility to share it so other people can learn from it. That’s important.
FFA: I believe it is too. Not to spoil the finale of your book, but can you share at least a little about how you were able to rebuild from something like that? Tangible things, actions that you took.
EH: Yes, absolutely. If you can imagine waking up one day and being absolutely flat broke after years of working and having made a ton of money… Going from wealthy to broke overnight. That money still exists, but you just can’t get to it. Someone else now has control of it. You can’t even afford your next meal because your bank accounts have been taken over. Horrible right?
FFA: I find it hard to imagine. I think most people would.
EH: Well me too… Until it happened. After it happened, I wasn’t just broke; I was also extremely disheartened. It was hard to believe in humanity at all. But I didn’t want to become a jaded person. Or cynical. Or believe the worst in people. So I used the Avatar tools to let all those potentially negative beliefs go. I discreated them. And I deliberately created being who I really believed I was: a generally positive and optimistic person who believed in myself and others. I took every guitar I had and walked each one to a different friend’s house and left it there and said “I’ve been hit in a bad way. You know this. I need money for an attorney and money to eat. Here’s a guitar. This is what it’s worth. If you’re willing to help, I’ll leave it here till I can pay you back.” And you know, every friend I had was more than willing to help me out. It makes me emotional still. Because it really showed me how powerful friendships are. I had guitars all over the city in different people’s homes as collateral. And honestly half of my friends didn’t even care about collateral. That was just for me. To make me feel more comfortable in receiving help…
FFA: That’s exactly the kind of thing I was hoping you would share. These tangible actions that you took. I think people will find them very inspiring and informative.
EH: Well yeah, obviously in that kind of situation you have to find a way to get on your feet. Just to be able to eat. The part that hurt the worst is that Naomi and I were connected at the hip for ten years before that. We were engaged to be married for God’s sake. AND business partners for years after that. So she knew that once she did that that I would literally not have a cent to my name, nor even a way to eat. It was astounding to me that someone could do that. But once it happens you have to move on and find a way out of it. So that’s the first thing I did. Then I hired an attorney to help me sort out just what the hell happened. And then I started doing consulting work to bring in money. Business and health consulting. And of course liquidating assets. Physical things… And then I started hardcore trading again.
FFA: You mean trading in the stock market?
EH: Yes. Something I already had a lot of experience with. But besides real estate there’s no faster way to make money fast when your funds are limited. Of course it works in the reverse as well. So you really have to have a strong stomach and nerves of steel. But it was all about taking very real and tangible actions to move forward and start to rebuild. All of this AND still trying to finish recording the new albums with the band at that time and play shows in different cities.
FFA: I remember that. I bet a lot of people wondered why you changed so many things in your life at the time.
EH: Yes I’m sure they did. Because I also leased out my apartment in Manhattan for a while to make money. Whatever it took. Living with family and friends. It was a freaking nightmare honestly. But it was also a tremendous challenge and so kind of fun… When people asked me what was up, I didn’t hide the truth. But I also didn’t advertise it. I just kept moving forward. It was an insane position to be in. But you start from where you are. You start with the basics. You create being happy to be you, and simple things like “I can do this”. “I can make it happen”. “I believe in me”. Things like that. Using the Avatar tools to create those realities. Or whatever “tools” you have available to you. In spite of how challenging things may appear. You do it anyway. And at the same time you announce it to the world. Tell everyone what you’re doing. For me that meant telling everyone “The Ambassador is down but he’s not out! I’m rebuilding the empire!” Perceive it as a challenge, a doable challenge. And set about every day to being real with where you are… but also striving toward bigger things. I truly believed that I had learned a valuable lesson, but that I was not meant to stay down for long. That was not my destiny. I didn’t take all these courses and read all these books to let one major setback ruin my life forever. I was totally committed to rebuilding in spite of that setback.
FFA: When the first song from your new solo album made it onto the Billboard Charts, after going through all that, did it feel like your hard work had finally paid off?
EH: Are you kidding? Yeah. It was amazing! We laughed, we cried. And then laughed some more. A lot of jumping up and down screaming. One of the greatest days of my life. Friends calling from all over the country because they just heard the song on the radio or in their car… Things like that. I think because of the immense disadvantage I had been placed in – and everyone knowing about it…. That’s what made it so much more enjoyable for everyone. To be down like that and to rebuild it all from scratch and then top it off by hitting the Top 40 a few times. That was an amazing moment for sure.
FFA: You really did “bounce back when flat” as you say.
EH: Yeah, it’s hard to believe. But we did it!
FFA: And it didn’t end there. Around the same time, you were invited to be one of only a handful of Americans to visit Iran post-revolution on a peace mission. How did that come about? [Hale visited Iran in 2009 on a well-publicized Civilian Diplomacy mission along with eleven other Americans in leadership positions from a wide cross section of different industries. He represented the arts. He just returned from a similar trip to Israel-Palestine recently. In between he’s also visited countries in Africa, Europe and Central and South America to build homes and community centers.]
EH: I’m glad you asked. Because it’s actually a really magical story in a way. I was at this silent retreat at a convent of nuns…
FFA: You always say these things that sound so outrageous… Like you’re narrating a movie.
EH: Hah! Well I’m telling you, this is what happened. It sounds crazy. But that’s how it went down. I was at a silent retreat at a convent of all these sisters in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. Episcopalian I think. And you couldn’t talk for like a week. So I used that time to just unwind and decompress. But they had this policy where during meals you could do some light talking… something like that. I met this one sister who was really cool, very hip. And we shared this passion for global human rights activism. We couldn’t really talk that much. But we got to know each other. And at the very end of the retreat she told me about this historic upcoming delegation of Americans who were headed to the country of Iran for a two week peace mission. She said that the application process had expired, but that if I got mine in really quickly that she’d put in a good word for me with the international organization that was putting the thing together. I had been trying to get into Iran for five years. I must have applied ten times and was denied every time. I had already been studying the language, Farsi, so I could speak the language a little bit… That helped. And you know, there’s more, but basically it all came down to me being at this silent retreat in the middle of nowhere that got me into Iran. Sort of. I suppose it was more than that. But that was the original impetus.
FFA: Being in the right place at the right time. It’s fascinating how these little miracles happen in our lives when we’ve put our attention and intention on them.
EH: Exactly! First our attention, then our intention, get rid of beliefs or ideas that are in the way and BAM! Things manifest!
FFA: Can you talk a little bit about your activism?
EH: Well it is something that I am passionate about. I think it’s an easy way to feel good. Because you’re giving back. It’s not all about you. It’s nice to step outside of it being all about us sometimes. A lot of times actually. [laughs. Hale has become reanimated. His eyes have that light back in them.] Every one of those trips will stay with me forever. I hope this is only the beginning.
FFA: And again you started a business around it. But this one was a non-profit. What is the goal of your PeaceWithIran.com organization?
EH: Just that. Peace with Iran. Exactly what it says. I honestly see it as a reality. I see it happening. Maybe not this year. But soon. The alternatives are far worse than the simple act of a peaceful reconciliation between the two countries.
FFA: From your mouth to God’s ears. What was the most important thing you learned from your trip to Iran?
EH: Great question. I’ve written a lot about this already, but I’d say that the first thing that struck me was how genuinely nice they are there and how much they love Americans. That was very much a surprise for me, for all of us on that trip. We never hear about what nice people the Iranians are here in the States. And we also don’t hear about how much they love and admire us here. That’s an important thing to share I think.
FFA: What other areas of activism are you interested in moving forward?
EH: Well now a lot of my focus lately has been on Israel and Palestine… That’s the real hotbed I believe… Even in regards to Iran, it seems to all come down to Israel and Palestine at the foundation.
FFA: Before we go too far off into world politics, can you talk a little bit about your new albums? What keeps you motivated to keep making music at such a rapid pace?
EH: Well I tend to write a lot of songs. AND at the same time I tend to have a lot of ambition when it comes to always wanting to out-do what we did last time, artistically. Every time we get an opportunity to make a new album it feels like such a privilege. So at first we just head into the studio to record our quote-unquote next album. It always starts out as a simple process and then it just starts to slowly get more and more complicated. So it’s just me wanting to challenge myself, see how far I can take it I guess. And the fans, their reaction to it…
FFA: So are the album titles official now? The ones that were just released to the public?
EH: Almost positively yes. Welcome to the Rest of the World for one, and Another Day in the Apocalypse for the other. They’re starting to sound really different from each other now. And the songs have been chosen for each. So we can see the finish line… finally.
FFA: So when can people expect to hear the first single or finished product?
EH: We’re not 100% sure, but my guess would be sometime this spring or summer…
FFA: Well I know a lot of people are excited to hear the albums. The last thing I want to ask you is if there was one thing that you could share with people about any of the Avatar Courses, what would it be? As someone who has taken all the courses and continues to do so.
EH: Well that’s easy. And hard, because there’s so much you could say about it. I mean, it’s a HUGE thing, right? I write about it a lot actually. On the one hand, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of being… You learn a whole new way of being, through becoming more adept at feeling and using your intuition… You become more honest and real. More in line with the truth. But on the other hand, it’s also just a series of courses. You know, it is what it is, whatever each person makes it out to be. I guess that’s what I would say about it. That in essence, the Avatar Course is essentially just a series of courses that contain all this confidential knowledge that you sort of already know, way down deep inside, like it resonates strongly when you read it, as if you’ve known it all your life, right? [Hale is once again excited and animated] And yet now it’s been broken down into very easy to understand and doable steps. That’s amazing! No one had ever done that before. I could go on and on… but put it like this: Take all the cool stuff that we’ve read about in metaphysical and new age books, AND all those documentaries about quantum physics and the so-called paranormal, and then turn all that into a nine day course filled with exercises and processes that teach you how to actually do THOSE things. Tools to help you gain more control over your life and the world around you… more personal power. Now do that with hundreds of thousands of other people from all over the world speaking seventy-something different languages! THAT’S what Avatar has turned into now after almost 30 years. A giant collection of the most enlightened or maybe better put the most enlightenment-seeking people on planet earth. It’s the coolest thing happening in the world right now hands down. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world working on being the best they can be AND trying to make the world a better place! Incredible stuff. People always ask me, “Is it worth the money?” And I’m like “Oh my God, no… it’s worth ten times as much.” Talk about a paradigm shift. If someone is looking for a real paradigm shift –something really transformative in their lives – I can’t think of anything else as powerful or noteworthy. At least not yet anyway. Out of everything out there. And I’ve tried it all and then some.
Today’s entry was going to be about Israel. About the not so holy land. I’d already written a lot of it. But due to extenuating circumstances, grueling and devastating circumstances for some us, that one is going to be postponed at least until tomorrow. For we’ve just found out that Lou Reed, yes that Lou Reed… has passed away into the great unknown. This one’s for him. For those that know me, or know of me, it’s a given fact that Lou was my biggest musical influence. Princess Little Tree and I have spent countless hours laughing at the fact that every time I release a new album and do the usual hundred or so interviews with the press to promote it — which now usually come in the form of emails that I dictate and she types out and sends back, there is ALWAYS that SAME question: “Who are your five or six biggest influences on your own music?” Without fail that question shows up. And time and time again I answer that question the same. Bowie, Lou Reed, Donovan, Marc Bolan, John Lennon, Paul, George, Bruce, Joni…. Etc.
I never care that most people don’t know who some of those people are. It just is what it is. You can’t listen to me without hearing Lou and Marc and David if you know their music. And I have no idea why that is except to think that that shit just washes over you and then seeps under your skin, gets inside of you and stays there forever… Becomes a part of you.
So it’s finally happened. We’ve lost one of the BIG ones. One of the REAL greats. No we’re not talking about Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston et al. Sure those artists have a place, somewhere, in the bastions of music I suppose… just not rock and roll. And certainly nothing to do with me. We’re talking about Lou. Yes, THAT Lou. My Lou. Our Lou. Lou Reed. The guy that when you tell people he’s your biggest influence they ask “Who’s that? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him…” which leads slowly down the path to help explain why artists like me, and Lou, have never reached the highest heights obtainable for musical artists. Because most people have never heard of him. Or me. You always have to follow his name with “You know, that song “Hey babe/take a walk on the wild side…?” And then they’re like “Oh yeah I’ve heard that song. Was he a one hit wonder or something?” And of course that’s a very loaded and telling question that speaks tons about contemporary music, and art in general, in the modern world; for what IS a one hit wonder? Most of them are some of the greatest artists to ever burst out of the human genetic tree. But they just aren’t pedestrian enough to achieve massive fame with the unwashed working class masses. Which in a way is grace and glory and in another way is a deeply sad tragedy.
I’ve told this story before. But if there’s one place where it belongs, in perpetuity, it’s here in the Transcendence Diaries. For without Lou Reed there would be no Ed Hale and thus no Fishy, no Transcendence and no Transcendence Diaries. By all accounts I lucked out. I got signed and had my first album come out when I was 17 years old. What is now commonly called The Eddie Album. Yeah me and Beav were psyched. We’d waited for that moment since we were little kids. We knew I’d get signed. Knew I’d release albums all my life. Knew I’d be a rock star. It was a given. But then something that I’ll never forget happened. Something that I for whatever reason believe changed the trajectory of my life and career forever.
Beav and I were sitting on the floor of my bedroom. We were smoking out, pretty high. I was home on break from college. We were talking about big dreams. Our local paper in Pine Ridge had just run a big cover story on me. We were so freaking happy. All our friends were there. It was a scene. I was talking about how big I was gonna be. Bigger than Elvis. Like all kids do I suppose… And then Beav, as he always does, just out of the blue, after minutes of not saying anything — so when he does speak, everyone goes quiet and listens — he says “Nah dude…” he glances down and takes a drag from his cigarette “you’re not gonna be big like that bro…”
“What are you talking about man? Of course I am!” I protest.
“Nah man. What would be cooler is if you were more like Lou man. More underground. More cool. More intelligent. You don’t want to be a sell-out bro. And let’s face it. You’re not really like the kind of artists that make it big bro. You’re short and ugly as hell and you’ve got that giant schnoz of yours…” Everyone starts laughing. But I continue to protest… though I knew he was just ribbing me. I also knew there was some truth to what he was saying.
“What about Prince? HE’S a real artist and HE’S super big!” I exclaim.
“Yeah man but dude… You’re not like Prince. I mean… You don’t dance and sing like that. You’re more like Lou than anyone… Or Marc Bolan…. You’re underground. You’re an acquired taste dude.”
I never thought that Beav even thought about me or my music… let alone had such insight to what I really sounded like or would come off like to millions of people… Especially not when we were still kids… But I thought about it… I went silent… I just sat there thinking about it. I mean, hell, he was right…. Most of the artists that I grew up loving were already dead or dying or at least 30 years in the past and they were all pretty underground… I never listened to contemporary music when it was contemporary. I shunned it for older cooler stuff. For the exact opposite of superstars. Marc Bolan (T. Rex for those of you who don’t know who Marc is. “Bang a Gong” for those of you who don’t know who T. Rex is…), Donovan, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop….
Sure I was a Beatles fan and as a kid with The Toad and Stu Guru we would daydream about being as big as the Beatles like all young up and coming musicians do. But my tastes ran way deeper and more eclectic than just the Beatles. The Beatles days were when I was a kid. As I grew older I began looking for things that were much more intelligent and eccentric than anything the Beatles ever offered. And as an artist on my own, I quickly began to diverge off the commercial path before my second album even came out. Which of course led to it never coming out because it wasn’t “commercial enough”.
But this isn’t about me. This is about Lou. Who died today. Yesterday Beav texted me a batch of Lou lyrics. Just yesterday. Little Beav texted me almost ALL the lyrics to Lou’s song “Trade In” from his Twilight Reeling album. See. That’s what most people aren’t going to understand. That’s why I’ll avoid social media like the plague for the next few days. Because now that Lou is dead all the pretenders will come out talking about how great they thought Lou Reed was, but they’ll be full of shit. They might know a song or two but they didn’t love the guy. They usually made fun of him. “Oh that guy who always talks instead of sings his songs…” You know who the Lou Reed fans are. Beav just texted me twenty freaking lines of Lou Reed lyrics because he LOVED Lou. For real loved him. As we all did and do who really knew him and loved him. We didn’t care that he lost his singing voice thirty years ago. We still went and saw him live because we wanted to be in his presence and we wanted to support him. Let the pretenders be damned. In fact, standby; I’m going to post something on social media now to all the wannabes who might dare take advantage of Lou’s death for their own selfish glory. I’ll be right back.
Okay I’m back. Had to do that. Social media is awash with these catfishing self-serving whores who will take advantage of any event to get some attention for themselves. One of the things I loath about it. Though for the most part, I am one of the big fans of social media obviously. On certain days though…. Today, wow. The more it hits me the sadder I get. I am starting to feel that deep sadness, the kind that is there when you are crying uncontrollably. It still hasn’t completely hit me yet. I just cannot get it through my head…. that Lou is really gone. Yes, I was lucky enough to meet Lou a few times. I can’t claim that we were friends. Not many can. Tony can. He actually had ben doing tai chi with Lou a lot over the last few years. So for him and for David (Bowie) I am truly truly sorry. I know they must really be feeling it, maybe even more than I; because they were close to Lou as a person. I was more just close to Lou as an artist. Is there a difference in our grief? in the feeling of loss we feel? How can it be quantified? Not sure it can be.
Today started out like any other. Just another Sunday. Wake up late but just in time to rush to church with Princess Little Tree. Making notes the whole time about this and that, different ideas that would eventually become books or screenplays or blog posts or songs. Then off to Victor’s the closest cool coffee shop in town for a cappuccino and some bakery items. Then home for all the Sunday news shows…. And then BAM! A friend posts something to facebook about Velvet Underground. I see it as a strange. SHE would normally NEVER post anything to social about Lou Reed. That’s odd. Let me check it out… Why would she…? And then I see it. Tony posts something confirming that it’s really true. Lou really passed. Fuck. Wow. Could it really be true? We just had a scare like this with Lou a few months ago. His liver was failing. So we knew this was coming. But man…. Couldn’t we get one more live show in? I really wanted Princess Little Tree to see him live. Just to feel that energy of all that love in the room…. But that’s not going to happen now. Ever. She’ll never get to experience that. And neither will I ever again.
But that’s okay as sad as it is. A few years ago as you know, I had the chance to experience Lou up-close and in person at Carnegie Hall. Along with a handful of other legends. At one of the Tibet House Benefit Concerts. Laurie was there too. (Laurie Anderson, Lou’s genius wife who on her won is one of the most innovative and influential artists of all time). So too was Philip. (Glass). It was an incredible show. When Lou came on you would have thought that Jesus himself had resurrected, again, and walked onto the stage. This was Lou’s home turf after all, New York City, a place that made him famous and that made even more famous just by being him. All you could hear were people screaming “LLLLOOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!!!!!!” It was such an incredible energy. I felt very happy for Lou in that moment. He hadn’t had a great ten years last. Yes he was being lauded by many notables for being the visionary that he was. Wim Wenders and Bono and Julian Schnauble and David Bowie had all done plenty to alert the world to his genius as he got older. But commercially his ship had sailed decades before. And his original albums were not just failing to get anywhere commercially; they were failing to even connect with his small fanbase. The last album that he recorded with Metallica was purely dreadful. To this day I have no idea why he or they did it. It was just a mismatch. I get that they loved him and wanted to work with him. But man when something doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work.
David said once, “The thing about working with Lou is that he will ALWAYS find a way to deliberately fuck things up when you’re in the recording studio. That’s the thing. He doesn’t WANT it to be perfect and polished and commercial sounding.” That quote stayed with me for a long time. Never left actually. I have never forgotten it. For better or worse, from the moment I heard it, I kind of adopted it as an ethos for my own art. I understood from that moment on what it meant to record a Lou Reed Album and why his music always sounded the way it did. He was doing it on purpose. So yes, I can admit it here, I adopted that same principle. That’s how big of an influence Lou was on us, on me I guess I mean to say. There is this strong desire to not suffer this grief alone. I want to call someone. Someone who gets it. But only Beav really gets it out of all the people I know. Most people just don’t love Lou the way I did. Tony is feeling it.
I just texted Tony. Just to connect with someone else who can really understand and who is feeling the same kind of grief. It would be like if David passed, God forbid; I shouldn’t even say such a thing. But it’s that kind of pain and shock. We know it’s inevitable. And God knows that for Lou to last till 72 with the insane lifestyle he had then man was he lucky… but it still comes as a shock. Just one of those things we KNOW is going to happen but we just pretend is NEVER going to happen. That’s being human isn’t it? That knowing combined with that uncanny ability to live in denial as only we can out of all the other animals on the earth…
One of the first things that Princee asked me is “Why is he considered so great? Why is he so loved?” So I went on YouTube and began calling up songs of his to play for her and post to social media. So others could become aware of his great works. At the bottom of this post I will paste the link to a PlayList I created of some of Lou’s greatest musical achievements. It’s just really a start. There is SO MUCH more to his achievements than what is on here. It’s a start. It’ll turn you on to a very small sampling of some of his greatest moments and that’s all. There is plenty more beyond it if you dig what you hear. Lou was one of those very rare artists who continually changed and evolved artistically. He never settled down. He never repeated himself. This is why is so beloved by those that know. For those that do NOT like the usual dreck that dominates the airwaves of today, call them the literati or the cognizati or whatever, they all have a small handful of things in common; a sincere love and respect of Lou Reed being one of them. He was a master wordsmith. Unlike Sir Paul, who can sure write a pretty tune, or even a badass one (“Helter Skelter”), but who often disappointed lyrically, Lou NEVER disappointed lyrically. He was the exact opposite. Like Paul Simon or Elvis Costello, Lou never wasted one word. He never took the easy way out lyrically. He never rhymed just because he needed to. IF he had to, he would forsake the rhyme for the meaning. How FEW artists dare do that in contemporary music?
Listen to the song “Street Hassle” or “Kicks” if you want a taste of what a genius writes like within the confines of modern music. Of course the music isn’t the least bit commercially accessable. But that isn’t why Lou made music. And perhaps that’s why we loved and admired him so. Because he just didn’t care as much about that kind of thing compared with being a great writer. His heroes were real poets, cats like Delmore Shwartz, so he didn’t compare himself to other singer/songwriters… He compared himself to real poets. That had a huge impact on me.
The first time I met Lou was twenty years ago. I was a freshman in college. My own first album had just come out. I had written my final term paper on Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, as crazy as that sounds now. And I was playing on a side stage at an Amnesty International event in Atlanta, GA. So was Lou and a still young U2. I got to meet all these amazing people. I went up to Lou and told him how much I loved him and that I had just written my final on him. His response was something like “That’s nice kid….” and that was it. I didn’t expect any more, but it still stung a bit. But why would he care? Would I now? Do I? In all honesty, it’s not that I don’t, when I am told similar things… It’s more like I just don’t have the time for it… That’s really what it comes down to. It took me years of walking in his shoes a bit to get that. For the little me who got hurt as a young fan to integrate with the larger me that began to do the same things to people as I became older and busier.
A few years later I was on the phone with Laurie’s (Anderson) personal assistant. He told me he was leaving the position. I asked why. Laurie is the BOMB. She’s a freaking genius. “I just can’t take having to deal with Lou” he said. “Is he that bad?” I asked. After all, we were talking because I wanted to cruise over and hang with Laurie but I really wanted to hang with Lou. “How often do you really have to talk to him anyway?” “Well now that he and Laurie are a thing…. even if Lou answers the phone, he’s just so fucking rude and callous sometimes. I can’t deal with it.” This really helped me understand. Lou was still coming out of something. I mean, all that pain that created all that incredible music… Music that could only be created from that kind of pain…. He wasn’t just exploiting it. He was living it. He was it. It was HIS life. And it showed. It hit me… Wow, the reason he is able to touch upon these things… is because he feels this pain, he lives it. And unfortunately for those who have to deal with him on a day to day basis, it can be hard to handle at times.
A few years before, I was at Rudy’s Music, the famed guitar dealer in New York City, this is back in the Acoustic In New York days, circa ’95. Fame was about to come and go yet again for me. Or at least any semblance of importance or relevance in the music business. I was sleeping on couches and knocking on doors. Again. Trying to get this new album out that I had recorded for SONY that now was never going to be released because “the songs were too long”. (This was just one of the many aspects of Lou’s influence…. the ironic balance between the quest we had to achieve at least enough appeal to the suits to be able to release our music but our totally fuck it all attitude to the rules and constraints of the business of music to the point where it became harmful to our ability to achieve any kind of real commercial success…. I mean, without Lou…. I don’t know if I would have ever known to reach that far… In terms of artistic reach…. song length…. the need to tell the whole story regardless of how long the song ended up being…. a lot of that came from Lou….)
Around this time I wanted to buy an original Lou Reed black Telecaster. As close to original and as close to Lou’s as I could. So I went to the source. I knew Lou has all his guitars made and repaired by Rudy. Rudy just flat out told me that yes Lou was a special customer but he was a total dick to work for. That again upset and disappointed me. Beav kept telling me to “go bang on Lou’s door and reintroduce yourself and make friends with him man!” But I kept hearing these things that didn’t bode very well for something like that. As much as I would have loved it. Like Bob did with Woody or Lou himself did with Delmore…. I always pictured myself doing it with Lou. But reality told me that it wasn’t going to play out like that. Speaking with Laurie’s assistant, who I’m deliberately not naming, was the closest I came and I really wanted it to happen. But he assured me that if he were to even get up the desire to do me the favor that it would not turn out the way I imagined. Laurie, sure, no problem. But Lou, not a chance. So it never happened back then. Then I got older and my own star started to reignite.
Tony shares things with me. Evidently Lou became much more kind and docile over the last few years. Which makes me happy. He got clean. He went on antidepressants. He had to. He went all natural, which is always good. Started doing tai chi. Tony said he even became nearly personable. But I just didn’t have the chance now at this stage in my own career; I had become so busy… it’s strange how that happens. I could have made the effort to take just half a day to make the pilgrimage, to share with the man how much he meant to me… But I could never make the time. So there’s that too. Just regret. I could have taken the time. I always just figured there would be time. And maybe that’s one of the lessons to be plucked from this great loss. The intense need there is for us to take the time to do things that are most meaningful and important to us. So we DON’T spend the rest of our lives in regret.
For those that know me, I guess it’s enough just to acknowledge what has happened today and that will provide plenty of context as to why I might be MIA for a while, as well as to help explain what and how I’m feeling… If I come off angry or hostile or overtly down…. I really can’t find the words. I feel as though I’ve lost a family member. And more so than most family members I have truth be told. More so certainly than any kind of sadness I might feel if and when my own father passes. But alas you all will understand the other side of that as well. It hurts. I’ve not yet reached the point of tears.
Because I just feel so goddamned angry still. Mad that it’s happened now. Mad that I’m in bumfuck nowhere instead of New York where I should be at a time like this. Nowhere Lou or Laurie or Tony or any Lou fans, nowhere near any vigils that are going to be taking place tonight all over Manhattan. Just mad that it happened. Mad that I never took the time to go pay my respects when I could. Mad that he’s gone forever now and there’s no chance for that “one more great album from Lou”…. The anger is masking my sadness. But I can feel the pain swelling up inside my chest past my throat and into my face. Pain. Deep painful hurtful pain. Lou is one of the last of them. Besides the obvious ones and I’m not going to name them. But God he was still so young.
It wouldn’t be fair to write about Lou without saying a big FUCK YOU to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting Lou as solo artist until AFTER he’s dead. For surely NOW they will rush to induct him next year. Even though every fucking year his name comes up and they’ve been passing it up; assuming they had plenty of years to do it still and besides “we’ve already inducted him once with the Velvets….” But no that wasn’t good enough. And now like with so many you’re going to end up doing it posthumously. And that sucks. For Lou, who really wanted it, and for all of us who believed that he should have gotten in there long before half the people who are in there now. I mean, this is the guy who gave us “Walk on wild side,” “Sweet Jane” “Satellite of love” “Coney Island Baby” “Street Hassle” “New York” “Blue Mask” “Berlin” on and on and on. On one else gave us what Lou gave us.
He deserved more recognition in his lifetime than he received. I am sure there is going to be plenty now that he has passed. And that’s one of the many aspects of who and how we are that enrages me to no end. But that’s politics. Today should be a day for remembering WHY we love Lou so much. All those songs man. All that brilliant poetry that spoke in a voice that only he could. That white soul groove that he laid down in song. That razor guitar sound and that wall of noise with that mid-toned nasally New York accented voice that hauntingly floated just above all of it speaking truths about the world and the human condition more honestly and more poetically than almost anyone else before or since. “Hey hey Lou Reed/ there aint no way you’ll ever be a human being….” “And some people they’ve got no choice/ and they can never find a voice/ to talk with or even call their own/ so the first thing that they see/ that gives them the right to be/ why they follow it/ and you know man/ it’s called bad luck”
Lou Reed I’m going to miss you. I loved you dearly. Without you there could never be a me. I’ve never been ashamed or too proud or selfish to admit that. Wish I would have told you that in person when I was older, more as peers and not from such a distance as is created by age. But I know you knew how influential you were to guys like me. To so many. I hope you passed on easily and confidentially knowing how important you were and always will be. And how truly loved admired and respected. Here’s to you Coney Island Baby New York City Man.
Here’s a playlist of just a few of Lou’s greatest contributions to modern music:
Well I think we’re doing it again. Princess Little Tree and I joke around about “what a challenge it is to BE Ed Hale” compared to just “dealing with him” like other people do. I’m always like “yeah yeah I know, I’m sorry about that,” when she complains about how many different projects I have going at once and how unwieldy and crazy our schedule is, “but just imagine BEING the person who has to LIVE AS me!” I respond. “It’s hard enough dealing with me, I know, but it’s a whole different thing to keep waking up to the fact that you ARE that person and trying to figure out ways of handling being that person!”
I think of it like this: I’m just me. A regular Joe like anyone else. But on top of it, I was born INSIDE this totally crazy super-curious and ambitious wild man who never stops thinking and planning and taking notes and starting new things. If it were up to me, I’d just be chilling like anyone else. The usual things, picnics, TV, movies, family, the park, having drinks with friends, I don’t know, whatever normal people do… But I feel like I’ve got this responsibility to try my best to honor this guy that I was born inside. And he’s got this massive imagination and all this ambition and he really does believe he can do it all and more. So I just do my best to make that happen and hang on for the ride; and hopefully survive it all. Yep. It feels like that.
So we started Ed Hale’s new solo album in the summer of 2011. Right at the right time. The first single from the last solo album was taking off. A few months later the second single was doing even better than the first. We needed a new album and we needed it fast. Problem was that we recorded about 17 songs initially and instead of one good solid album, it sounded more like two partially completed albums. So we all flew back to New York to record more songs. Ended up with 34 new songs. So now we’ve been slowly making progress on them. Little by little. Drums, bass, acoustic guitars and vocals are slowly all getting done. Along with various percussion and keyboards. The crazy thing is how many hundreds of hours it takes to finish one song. At least for us. Now. On this album. Let me put it into perspective. We’re in the summer of 2013 now and I’m only done with 12 songs in terms of being done with MY parts. That’s insane. I know it. But it’s just a lot of work.
This album started out as a continuation of the Ballad On Third Avenue album. Acoustic pop, or what in the business we call Adult Contemporary; that’s the actual format. But what we’ve ended up with is three distinct sounds for three distinct different albums. One is still more organic acoustic, what you would call almost folksy. Think Bon Iver or Fleet Foxes or The Lumineers. Simple stuff. Do it in your sleep stuff. But I tire of that real quick. Whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I have a tough time getting through three songs in a row of that kind of material. So we branched out and made some of the songs more electric, more upbeat, more pop. I dig that. Though it takes a lot more instrumentation and production. And then there’s this third style that’s coming out that’s more like electric folk, kind of like Dylan when he went electric… Rubber Soul perhaps? But not really cause it’s more folky.
It’s all acoustic based. None of it is “rock” per se. And that was the plan. These are Ed Hale solo albums after all, and since all the same players play on these that do the Transcendence albums, THAT’S the only difference between the two artists at this point: the solo albums are slower and softer, more acoustic, more pop, and Ed Hale and the Transcendence albums are more rock. It’s just a name/style thing, rather than a change in lineup. I’ve been working with the same group of guys since 2002 and don’t see changing that anytime soon. They’re like brothers now. They know what I write and sing like. And they call me on my stuff; they know what to do and say to bring the best out in the music.
I’ve been living in Seattle for the last few months and so we’re working out of a studio here. Only problem is that all the guys are in different cities and states around the country now. Most of the guys are still somewhere in South Florida. But others are in LA or Texas or Minneapolis or Atlanta. It’s crazy. What we’ve decided to do, what I’ve decided to do, is keep on recording the songs here, my parts, and then we email the songs out as MP3s to all these other players — we’ve got about 15 additional players now around the country, adding strings, woodwinds, horns, guitars, keyboards, drum programming, background vocals — and have them import the MP3 into their recording studio rig. They then record their parts onto the track to their liking and then they send only their parts back to us and we then drop them into the original open track, as if they were there in the studio with us.
We’re really tracking three albums here… We have about 13 songs done with “my parts” now… meaning the basic drums/bass/acoustic guitars, some keys and all my basic lead and background vocals. That’s what these guys will be tracking to. But we have musicians all over the country adding other instruments while I am NOT there. And neither is the producer. So there is no way to monitor what they’re going to be recording. I’ve never done ANYthing like this before… NOT being there when peeps record their parts. It could turn into a total MESS. But I’m hoping to create a totally NEW sound by doing it this way — encouraging the dissonance that will naturally come from the musicians stepping all over each other without knowing it. Trumpet parts stepping all over sax and flute parts etc. It’s a crazy idea.
Of course we’ll mix the messy parts out and just keep the “good parts” Meaning whatever fits and sounds good. And hopefully that will provide a GIANT palette from which to choose for Zeke Zaskin who is set to mix yet again. He’s mixed every one of our albums since Nothing Is Cohesive and he always does a great job. Bear in mind that we usually provide absolutely insanely confusing tracks. Usually very messy because we record A LOT. I’ll lay down at least 15 different vocal tracks plus three to five guitar tracks and two to five keyboard tracks. In addition Vancouver will lay down five to ten additional guitar tracks. Now we’ll be adding an additional 10 to 15 additional musicians all laying down whatever they want to however they want to…
It has the potential to be a royal mess. But it also has the potential to be a roaring success, something brand new and exciting sounding. the potential for the musicians to step on each other musically is VERY high. Notes that may sound good to them clashing with notes that other players have added… Cause none of us are going to hear what the other people are adding. But that’s what i LOVE about the prospects of this new way of doing it. The utter randomness of it. No, it will not be the usual organic “all built up from the bottom up together as a unit” kind of recording style that we are used to. It’s going to be the exact opposite. But that’s what I am kind of digging about this new method. We now have the technology to record in this fashion. Of course no one in their right mind would do this on a professional commercial release. It’s crazy for sure. But it just may blow us all away with how cool it could sound.
In any case, there’s a catch up for ya. That’s where we are. If you were wondering where this new album is. Yes I know we’re a year behind schedule. But there’s a valid reason for it. We’re trying something a little different with this one. So be patient. As soon as we have something finished, IF we ever finish a song that is…. We’ll post it for you all to hear. Frankly I can’t wait to hear what this grand experiment produces. It’s bound to be new. Good? Can’t say yet. The songs are good. But I just may ruin them… LOL! We’ll just have to see. Standby on that.
I just listened to the last but unreleased Broken Spectacles album, the one called Aftermath. The one that took us two years to make, a year and half of which was building the recording studio. Recording the album probably only took us a few months at the most. I hadn’t heard it in 15 years. The Grey Wolf just sent it to me. All I could do was cry cry cry… I had totally forgotten how quirky weird and special we were. Broken Spectacles is the real name of the band that I have been referring to as Shattered for the last fifteen years in these Transcendence Diaries and other places.
What a sad beautiful trip that just was. Grey Wolf aka Donnie J Groovemaster Jam, has just recently unearthed a treasure trove of master tapes from those six years and had them digitally remastered. He sent me one CD of the “old stuff” and one CD of the never released last album we recorded called Aftermath. We may need to change that title since it’s a Stones album already. I don’t believe we knew that at the time. Grey Wolf burned the CDs all wrong so it’s just ONE big hour long song per CD, which is classic Groover. He’s going to do it over again he tells me. That I assume will take another fifteen years. I have a lot of the old songs already mastered and ready to go, but only the ones that I wrote, for the Spectacularly Broken compilation album… But now I am rethinking the idea and wanting to do a WHOLE Spectacles compilation instead of just Ed Hale songs… Would take all four guys agreeing to that… That’s the problem. Bands are tricky.
Today I only listened to Aftermath… The first song that came on was called “LOVE”. Fans won’t even know the song because Aftermath was never released and unlike most of the songs on the album, we never played the song “Love” live, not even once. That one was a Toad song. We all contributed to each others songs, adding various instruments as we saw fit and vocal harmonies along with background vox. By the time we got to Aftermath we had been together for five years. So Toad and I were still working together very closely, but not writing together as much as did in the beginning. More like coming in with completed songs and then just assisting each other with suggestions and musical additions. There are some horn and string parts I added to this one along with my usual backgrounds and harmonies, but for the most part it was all Toad. And it was utterly transcendent. I couldn’t believe it. What i was hearing. Now. Fifteen years later. It felt like a different life. A lifetime ago. Truly.
Ed Hale aka Eddie Darling and Matthew Sabatella on stage at Churchill’s Hideaway in Miami, FL
In that moment it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Reminded me of George Harrison. I didn’t remember it at first. Couldn’t place it. I didn’t understand why it was there. It wasn’t part of the album was it? Wouldn’t I remember that? Turns out that it was. I had just suppressed the memory I assume. And for good reason. There was always a tense and bitter but beneficial competitiveness between Toad and I by the time we got to the recording of this album. Who was the better writer? Who was the better singer? Who got more girls? Who got more press? Who got more positive reviews? Who knew more? Who played their instrument the best? Who played the most instruments? Who wrote more songs? Who was deeper? Who sang more like John Lennon? Who was as multi-talented as Paul? On and on. (Funny right? I know… But bands are like that when they first start out… It’s cute when you think about it…)
I cannot help but think that one of the reasons why Broken Spectacles was so good was due to this very intense but loving competitiveness between the two of us. Always pushing ourselves more, to be the best we could be in order to outdo the other. But we were also best friends, beyond brothers. With an infinite love between us, one that I have still not to this day experienced with any other man, perhaps not even any other human being. A lot of water has passed under that bridge.
Listening to it this time, anew, I was flabbergasted by its beauty. Astounded. Couldn’t stop crying. And then in comes Coon’s “KALEIDOSCOPE” with the most amazing triple lead guitar harmonies “Freebird” style ending. And on and on it went… “AINT IT HARD”!!! Another masterpiece. “Nature Boy”, “Wrong Again”, “I Want Blood”, “Going Nowhere”, “Aftermath”, “Your Face Ain’t That Pretty”… Every guy was doing such a good job at what they were trying to do. I was so impressed with the musicality of it all. Couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps I had somehow sold my soul over the last fifteen years since those days… Just to get more success and make more money. We now don’t make anything like this kind of music I was hearing from this strange glorious mess of an album.
Princess Little Tree couldn’t believe that it was us she was hearing. She had never heard the band before. Only knew the Transcendence and the Ed Hale solo stuff. Had only heard me talk about Broken Spectacles. All the stories… She was impressed by the variety of vocals. Had never heard Toad or Coon sing. Never heard all three of us sing together before, one of the things that really stood out about that band, three lead singers, oftentimes singing at the same time in all the songs. It was special. But here’s the coup de grace… the last song Grey Wolf put on the album for some reason was “AND I GO”. A mega monstrous masterpiece, an epic anthemic musical gift from God the likes of which I’d never heard before or since. Like a thunder bolt straight out of heaven into your ears and your soul. I could not believe what I was hearing. What a freaking masterpiece. Of course it’s a Toad song too. I always hated being in a band with him. As much as I loved it. (to be fair he claims the same thing and for the same reasons… just goes to show…) I was such a shite singer back then compared to now (which isn’t saying much I know). But holy crap what a monstrously gorgeous song that is. Toad could die tomorrow and his legacy will forever remain top tier due to the four songs he contributed to this album. Same with Coon. His are equally epic and brilliant.
I could not stop crying. First just sobs like with the other songs… Little baby tears. And then by the time we get to the “I want you to go deep…” breakdown of this song, I was full on sobbing like a baby, like a mental patient, face all scrunched up. Tears shooting out of my eyes. I seriously don’t think I can ever listen to that song again. It’s just too good. It’s frightening how good it is. I have no idea what happened to me, but it was one of the most cathartic events of my life. Cathartic in how emotional I felt, how completely moved in so many ways… Up, down, sad, happy, amazed, traumatized, relieved, proud, regretful… over the top emotion anguish and expression. I couldn’t help but feel this deep sadness and fear that over the last few years I had just completely sold out as an artist. Compared to what I was hearing on this album, recorded when we were just kids, but so unique and special.
I so wish I could post this song for everyone to hear… the whole album. But it’s all up to Grey Wolf at this point. And getting an agreement from all the members of the band. I don’t actually have a real copy of this album. Haven’t had one in over 15 years. If ANY of YOU have a copy of THAT album in any form let me know. Perhaps we can speed this process up. Also — if ANY of YOU have high quality PHOTOS to use as artwork for the release, let someone know. Once we schedule this, we can commission someone to do the artwork. We will need REAL PHOTOS to scan. I have no idea if I have any pro-grade or high quality ones really. Just scanned in low quality ones. But that’s what we need here to take it to the next phase.
I believe that more than anything what affected me most about hearing this album from start to finish like this for the first time in so many years was that number one, what I was listening to was old. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, so like seeing someone you love, like a family member, for the first time in over a decade, that’s just going to get to you regardless. Number two though, as a work of art it’s absolutely BRILLIANT. It’s big brash experimental avant garde. Epic and all over the place stylistically… And yet it has a very distinct sound all its own due to the fact that the same four guys recorded it in the same six month period using all the same gear and in the same two rooms. It has a mythic quality to it. We were peaking artistically as individuals and as a group when we recorded it (but then again when are we NOT peaking. I have yet to experience “writer’s block” or any “down time” as an artist… I guess that’s lucky. Or maybe that’s just how it is for all artists…) What it’s not is commercial. It’s entirely NOT commercial.
Ed Hale aka Eddie Darling and Matthew Sabatella of Broken Spectacles in the recording studio
Moving as all hell. But just not commercial in any way. And see that’s the thing… We used to not give a shit about being commercial. That was never our aim. Never the goal. I mean, I honestly don’t think we even thought about it. And the music shows that. It’s extraordinarily amateurish in many ways. But you can’t help but be blown away by how mammoth and ambitious it sounds as well. Walls of noise really in some parts… On the one hand Broken Spectacles had some of the most exciting and advanced musicianship you could hear anywhere. On the other hand it had a very weak sort of chock full of mistakes sound to it as well… go figure. But that was us.
A few years after The Specs broke up I reverted to my real name, Ed Hale, laid Eddie Darling down for good and formed the band Transcendence with Infinito; first time I played with anyone besides the other three guys in the Specs in seven or eight years. We’ve recorded and released nine albums since then. Right out of the gate we experienced a ton more press, airplay, sales and critical acclaim than we ever did back in The Specs. For many reasons. Older, wiser, more experience, more money. But more than anything else I think it was because I understood that making music for me at least couldn’t just be about doing whatever the hell I wanted anymore. It had to include a measure of financial return to it or I was going to be forced to stop doing it full time. Besides, I wanted to make money with it. I wanted to experience what we call success, in the traditional sense. And we did. Thank God. I haven’t sat down and counted, but off the top of my head we’ve charted about ten songs on one chart or another over the last ten years. Sold a hell of lot of albums. That number would be triple that if I weren’t always trying to reach so much artistically… I know that. But still, we do make music that is commercially viable for the most part, at least compared to what we were doing in Broken Spectacles.
What I notice from a lot of my peers from that original music scene down in Miami when we all started out as teenagers and others I connect with all over the world still is that they’re all still making the same kind of music that they made way back when. They do what they do and they don’t change. And that’s a big problem. They expect that the industry is going to come to them. That the listeners are going to come to them. But it doesn’t work that way. Not even a little. Sure you can innovate here and there. But it has to be within the confines of what is happening within the music business and what is happening in pop culture now. There is a flow to it all. A flow of what’s hip cool popular modern happening. That’s popular culture.
Every now and then we get lucky and we may happen to be at the front end of that curve when the music is about to take a hard right or left… The way Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins were when hair metal was at it’s peak and everyone was desperate for it to die. Or the way that Radiohead and Muse and Travis and Ours and Mercury Rev were when we were all looking for grunge to die off. But hell, who can really say that Nirvana innovated that sound when we all know they really didn’t? They became the poster child for it for a while. (which sucked for some of the better bands, no need to name names…) But it wasn’t just ONE band or artist that did it. It was a wave of them.
And what I find today amongst many of my peers in rock is that they aren’t on the cusp of any wave at all. They aren’t even riding a wave. They’re just making the same old music that they’ve always made. Expecting people to like it. That’s music making as a hobby. Not music making to be a professional. You try to explain to them that they need to focus on using sounds that are modern or current or contemporary, their drum sounds, their guitar sounds, the way their voice is recorded… even the arrangement of the song itself… and they either argue the merits of what they’re doing or they just go blank and don’t understand. And yet we can’t argue with reality. With results. If you’re not experiencing the kind of success and popularity that you desire, then SOMETHING is wrong, or at least “not right” about what you’re currently doing.
Rise and Shine – the first Ed Hale and the Transcendence album
I can’t sit here and say that I completely changed spots and switched to totally making commercial music all of a sudden once we formed Transcendence. I didn’t. Especially considering that the original idea for the group was to create a world music meets modern rock sound that no one had ever heard before and have me sing in four or five different languages sometimes within the same song. That first album, Rise and Shine, was phenomenally eccentric. I know that. And hell, most of the guys in Transcendence are still pissed at me for how much I’ve switched genres over the years with the release of every new album, and how much I’ve focused on “creating art” or making artistic statements over the years. In fact, The ex Norwegian sent me a Fb post TODAY admonishing me to “PLEASE not worry about creating art” and just this once try to make all these songs commercially viable so we can make some money. He’s referring to real money. Big money. Not $1 or 200,000 a year money. But $1 to 10,000,000 a year money. I want the same thing. We all do.
We came damn close on the last solo album. But then I flipped it all around with the next two releases that we did with the group, All Your Heroes Become Villains and The Great Mistake. Both evidently were on the extreme and eccentric side compared to the solo album. At least that’s what we were told. But to everyone’s defense, I have to admit if backed into a corner that I did have major concepts and agendas when making the All Your Heroes album. Super focused. Hyper-focused. I mean, it was meant to be a giant concept… high art… an amalgam of statements all tied together to create one bigger statement. Something final and permanent. A mark. A sculpture. Solid and lasting like a castle or a mansion. ONE big piece. NOT merely a collection of songs. There’s a difference.
Contrast that with what constitutes hit songs in today’s market, or in any age’s market… What happens in those cases? The hit songs end up eventually losing their original home, whatever album they happened to be released on, people forget, and that album goes out of print. The song may last forever, eventually gaining the moniker of “classic”. But the album that it came from is lost forever to most people. THAT is exactly the opposite of what we’ve set out to do in Transcendence. Every album (except perhaps for The Great Mistake, which really is just a collection of songs…) was created as one cohesive work of art, to stay together and last forever. Pink Floyd is a great example of this. Animals, Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall… albums. Permanent cohesive entities in their own right over and above the hit singles they may or may not have had. Zeppelin, same thing. People say the album is dead ALL the time. They’re wrong. (To a certain degree anyway. Save for another post…)
I can’t complain that All Your Heroes wasn’t accepted as a huge commercial success compared to our previous one. It is dark and moody and insanely complex, wildy emotive and overly noisy in some areas, and more than anything it’s entirely dependent on being an ALBUM. It’s not really singles based at all. Hell, all the songs ram into each other and then flow into another song. I don’t think there’s ANY empty space on the whole album. I know. I think we all know. It wasn’t created to be a commercial thing… But the important thing is that I can die happy with it as an artist. Over the last two years since the release of that album I have felt very very good about it. I will die with a smile on my face when remembering it, when contemplating what we intended versus the final result.
And therein lies the eternal struggle. There’s a balance there that we constantly have to be considering when creating. Do we sell out with a song or two? And still try to preserve a great album in the process? Do we sell out entirely, just create the whole album as one sixty minute collection of unrelated mainstream pleasing current sounding tasty pieces of ear candy? How far can we swim out into the popular music sea once we jump overboard before we get lost and are unable to ever return to the comfort and safety of the artists’ artist boat?
And vice versa, how far off into left field can we ride that beast of innovation and experimentation and doing whatever the hell we want to before we are lost forever to the popular music loving masses? Some say it’s ALL selling out as soon as you begin to contemplate such matters. I say bullshit. If you don’t ever think about your art, about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, the possibilities, the various different styles and arrangements and directions you’ve got before you, then you’re just winging it. I’ve been there before, when you’re young you think you’re just going to wing it. I know that terrain well. Did it for years in the Specs. Refused to think about what we were doing. It ALL had to come spontaneously, like magic. No thought about the expression. It had to flow out naturally. It’s an artistic mindset. But it’s only ONE mindset. In a world where there are infinite mindsets one can occupy. One day I just decided to deliberately occupy a different mindset and see what would come of it.
Ballad On Third Avenue by Ed Hale
Ballad On Third Avenue was not the most successful album we ever released contrary to what most people believe. Sleep With You was a much bigger seller (so too in fact was Nothing Is Cohesive — which also still to date is by far the most critically acclaimed album any of us have ever been associated with) and had several big hits at Alternative Rock radio. But Ballad did have one thing that none of the other albums had up to that point: a verifiable Billboard Top30 hit song. Two of them. All the other hits were on different charts or specialty charts or college radio charts or made it to the Top 100 but just never got into Billboard’s Top40, let alone the Top25 like “Scene in San Francisco” and “New Orleans Dreams” did. That was something different. And it made a HUGE difference. Worlds of difference. In many different areas of our lives. For one thing we made a lot of money. And that was a very good thing. The songs still bring in a lot of money.
But it also had its challenges. The cons. Creating those songs was not just “hey let’s just create whatever we want to and see how people like it” as in times past. The songs were run by a seemingly endless string of consultants and then remixed and remixed again until every last one of them at every level of the industry was satisfied with how each song sounded. See, this is something that I NEVER would have done fifteen years ago when we were in Broken Spectacles. We were offered it sooooo many times. And every time we fought it and instead just created total chaos and confusion. I’ll never forget Toad telling the head of A&R at Island Records to “fuck off! We don’t need your advice about OUR music!” That’s how we did things…. We thought we held the whole world in our hands. And to a certain degree we did. Creatively we were an amazing unit. But we were young and green and stupid. We’d make sure we were always tripping on something whenever we had a meeting or a showcase with any major record label executives. Just to show them how little we cared. We weren’t going to change anything for anyone regardless how “big” or wealthy they were.
We had the opportunity to work with two of the biggest producers in the business. No need to name them here because it’s common knowledge. But in both cases, looking back, these were men who absolutely dwarfed us in terms of their experience and achievements in the music business. And in their abilities as musicians. And in both cases we played the fool every day we showed up. We KNEW what we wanted to do, knew what we wanted to sound like; we knew what was best. Or so we thought. So… why bother to have producers then? Well that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? We’d get excited to be working with a big name… And then when push came to shove and we got in the studio we always thought we knew best and fought with them. We were real shits.
Ed Hale as Eddie Darling, Matthew Sabatella and Donnie J in Broken Spectacles on their way into Brendan O’Brien’s recording studio in Atlanta, GA
Those were big mistakes. Looking back I can see WHY we did what we did. Why we acted the way we did. Our biggest fear –though at the time it was probably unconscious to any of us — was to ever consider that we were sell outs or selling out in any way. Pandering to the mainstream masses for money or fame or popularity. It just wasn’t who we were> in fact it was the exact opposite of who we were. We knew that. Being in that band, at that time in music history, at that point in our lives, at that age, the mentality and the sentiment and the statement was as important as the music.
The reason you made music and the kind of music you created or DIDN”T create was as important as the music… It was an elitist purist idealist state of mindfulness. Beyond arrogant. With pride in that arrogance. Very similar to what Vancouver is expressing now. Poor bastard. His “I’ll only play with acoustic drums and never drum loops or samples or synth beats” when everyone in the industry does it for very specific reasons — they sound badass — is precisely what makes his music sound so dated and local. And he SO wants to be liked and wonders why he isn’t. It’s curious, intriguing, perplexing really.
But I can relate. Because I suffered the same mental illness back in the days of The Specs. Granted, in our defense, we were 18 years old at the time. Vancouver is like thirty-something so he really has no excuse. But still, I can relate. The key for me, what changed, was that eventually I realized that I really did want to make popular music. And money. And if it was “I” who was making it, in the end, I would still probably like it in the end. Or so I hoped. On top of that, when you make popular music, you can generate enough money that you can then afford to make more avant garde or eccentric music in addition to the more popular music that you’re also making.
If I was to be honest with myself I think that underneath it all, at least for me personally, was just a fear that perhaps I really couldn’t create popular music… I was so focused on innovating all the time… But innovating is easy. you’re not going up against anyone when you’re always innovating. You’re only competing with yourself. Against whatever YOU consider your last great work of art. And that’s a really groovy place to be. Honestly that’s the world I’d like to live in as an artist ALL the time… But I also recognize the benefits of competing for commercial viability too. They both have their merits. It’s fun to popular and famous and successful and have money. And the competitive nature of it compels us to higher levels of greatness.
In any case, after all I’ve been through as an artist over the last ten years, all the hard work to create great works of art that were also somehow commercial and popular, listening back to this simple yet profoundly complex and beautiful Broken Spectacles album Aftermath really got me. I haven’t cried like that in years. Decades. That was a different world back then. We hadn’t a care. We were happy to be one of the “most popular local bands in our town”. That seemed like a big deal at the time. Our eyes and our dreams were bigger than our potential perhaps, or bigger than our willingness to stretch and grow…. I was happy to hear what we had created back then. To hear how incredibly good and ambitious it was. Nope, it would never yield the kind of commercial success we’ve experienced over the last ten years as Ed Hale and the Transcendence. It would never be played on commercial radio stations. But we were very very proud. We walked around like roosters on ‘roids, heads cocked high. And for good reason. We were fucking great and we knew it. Just not commercially successful great. But there’s something to be said about that kind of attitude.
Unlike a lot of artists in popular music, I personally have no big dream to dominate in the realm of most chart toppers or most #1 records or hit albums, nor that nagging fear that I am losing my grip as a key player in the pop world who is always on the Hot 100 with a Top 40 song. I see that kind of success and the money from it as a tool that can be used to allow me to do both: create popular hit music AND more eccentric and innovative works of art. THAT is where my dreams and fantasies of domination lay. How deep, how relevant, how innovative, how prolific, how intelligent, how thought provoking, how moving, how much new ground can I break… That’s what keeps me up at night and gets me up in the morning. Not the stats or the numbers. But the hearts and souls and minds that are deeply moved, called to act. Like that. So it’s a balancing act. These next six to twelve months, recording these new albums… It’s going to be fun. Tricky, but in a fun way.
Alright, I’m out. 4800 words with no break. My fingers are killing me. More on this topic later for sure.